Friday, December 2, 1994

Mary Carr

She is generally to be found every Friday cycling the few miles from her home at Quarry Farm to the town of Athy. Nothing unusual in that except that the cyclist will be a youthful 87 years on the 11th of January next.

Mrs. Mary Carr born in Ardreigh in 1908 spent her young years near Ardreigh Mills where her father John Healy worked. That huge complex originally built by Alfred Haughton shortly after the Great Famine was in the ownership of the Hannon family at the turn of this century. Mary, an only child, was born in a small house on the left hand side of the main Athy/Carlow Road near the bottom of Ardreigh Hill. The house and the neighbouring houses are now long gone leaving no discernable trace.

Ardreigh Mills produced the once famous Lily White brand of flour, a name so well known that it was applied to the all white clad Kildare Senior Football Team during the period of it’s great rivalry with Kerry in the 1920’s. Some of the mill workers in the years before the First World War included Phil Horan and Larry Cullen, both of Foxhill, Tom Nolan, Jack Howard, Jack Kelly, Paddy Mitchell and Dan Kelly, all of Ardreigh and Tom O'Hara and Luke Kelly of Athy town. Many more men now forgotten worked in the Mills where Jack Dalton was in charge of the Mill engine. Jack who died aged 91 years some years ago was the last surviving member of the Ardreigh Mill staff.

When Mary's father John Healy was promoted to the position of miller the family took up residence in the Mill cottage directly opposite Ardreigh Mills. This cottage is now owned by Charlie and Bernie Mackey. Across from it and facing the tow path to Athy was the Travellers cottage, so called because it was home to the salesman who travelled throughout the adjoining counties selling the Mill’s Products. Holder of that position during Mary's young days was Eddie Webster, father of Kitty Webster and Pattie Webster who for many years operated a sweet shop at the corner of Butlers Row and Offaly Street.

Further up the Canal was the Lock House where another Webster family lived. They were not related to their namesakes in the Travellers cottage. "Websters Lock" was the name then given to Ardreigh Lock which in time was to be known to another generation as "Quinns Lock".

Mary went to school in Athy walking by the canal tow path each day. A subsequent move to the Gate Lodge attached to Ardreigh House where the Hannon family lived was of short duration. Mary's mother believed that the Gate Lodge was haunted, relying on her extraordinary experiences of delph and items of furniture moving in the night as evidence of a ghostly presence. A speedy return to the Millers Cottage resulted.

It was while living in the Millers Cottage that Mary's mother died in 1920. When Ardreigh Mills closed in 1926 John Healy and his daughter Mary departed for Milltown Mills, an oatmeal mill owned by the Hickey family. She left school when as she says "they began to teach Irish in the schools". This was in 1923 following the setting up of the Irish Free State and within a year Mary went to work as a housekeeper with John P. Dillon's family at Barrow Quay. As a young fellow I scoured the countryside for empty bottles to sell for coppers to John Dillon, always referred to as "Chopsie" Dillon. The nickname was common currency but no one seemed to know from where it came. Long after the good man had died I discovered that the original "Chopsie" Dillon was a butcher and a bachelor who lived with his three sisters in Leinster Street. He had a butchers stall in Leinster Street, where Galbraiths is located. "Chopsie" was no relation to John P. Dillon of Barrow Quay but when he died the nickname was passed on to his namesake who thereafter was known by no other name.

After nine years with the Dillon family of Barrow Quay Mary married Patrick Carr who worked as a farm labourer for Willie Hosie of Coursetown and later for Peter P. Doyle. Mary Carr was the mother of five young children when her husband died in June 1946, ten months after her own father John Healy had died. She returned to work as a housekeeper and remarkably at almost 87 years of age she still works occasionally for one of her original clients.

Mrs. Mary Carr despite the loss of her father and husband within the space of ten months 48 years ago has retained a cheerful happy outlook on life with a vitality and energy which belies her 87 years.

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